Cambridgeshire

Chocolate firm in Huntingdon creates 400 jobs

A chocolate factory in Cambridgeshire has announced it is creating up to 400 jobs after customers raised £3.7m through a bond scheme.

Hotel Chocolat opened a Chocolate Tasting Club, allowing members to buy a bond and get the return on their investment paid in chocolate.

The money will create 250 posts over the next five years at the company's plant in Huntingdon.

Hotel Chocolat also aims to open more shops across the UK, creating 150 jobs.

An eco-chocolate factory at its plantation in Saint Lucia and expansion of its stores and Chocolate Tasting Club overseas are also in the pipeline.

The scheme, which closed on Monday, was the UK's first bond of its kind.

'Bowled over'

Angus Thirlwell, co-founder and chief executive said: "The idea for this chocolate bond was prompted by our customers asking how they could get more involved with the company.

"We found a way of inviting them to invest in our development plans in exchange for a return paid in chocolate and we have been bowled over by their response.

"We are now in a strong position to grow the business further using funds provided directly from our customers."

The Chocolate Tasting Club has around 100,000 members in the UK who receive a selection of chocolates each month and whose comments on new recipes are taken up by the firm.

Mr Thirlwell said members were invited to invest £2,000 or £4,000 in the bond and the return was equivalent to about 7.8%, well above the rate they would be able to get at a building society.

They can get their investment back after three years.

Hotel Chocolat, which employs about 600 people, has had a factory in Huntingdon for four years and has already spent nearly £6m on the plant.

It has 40 shops in the UK, which could increase to 70.

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